The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

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This easy Yellow Cake Recipe is made from scratch is way better than cake mix. It’s a light, fluffy and moist homemade cake topped with my favorite chocolate fudge frosting. This is the perfect birthday cake that can also be made into cupcakes or a layer cake!

Looking for more cake recipes? Try love my classic vanilla cake or this moist chocolate cake!

A Slice of Yellow Cake on a Gold Polka Dot Plate with Frosting and Sprinkles

At last! Time for a new cake recipe!! This one, you guys – this is the perfect yellow cake with a fudgy chocolate frosting made completely from scratch.

This homemade cake resembles what you’d get with a box of cake mix – but better. I know that’s a big claim. There’s so much nostalgia with boxed cake mixes. I mean, how many birthdays parties did you go to when you were a kid that had a yellow cake? I wanted to capture that fluffy, moist cake texture and also recreate the flavor. I think I did it!

What Makes this Yellow Cake So Good?

  • Easy to make. There’s no creaming butter and sugar together, or waiting for ingredients to come to room temperature.
  • Quick. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the batter, which means you’ll be diving into that first slice even sooner than you thought. 
  • Flexible. I’ve made it as a sheet cake in these photos for an easy, classic birthday cake. But you can also use this recipe to make cupcakes or a layer cake!
  • Recreates that nostalgic childhood birthday cake. I tested 7 different versions of this recipe before finalizing this one, which was also tested so many times! I love this recipe. If you want to make a classic yellow birthday cake from scratch, this is what you are looking for.

What’s the Difference Between Vanilla Cake and Yellow Cake?

Flavor-wise, a yellow cake should have a less-strong vanilla flavor, but a buttery, “eggy” flavor, although I hate the term “eggy” myself. Other than that, there isn’t really a whole lot of different between the two.

An overhead view of a slice a cake on a gold polka dot plate. The cake has a few bites taken out of it.

What You’ll Need

One of the best things about this classic cake recipe is how simple the ingredients are. Here’s what you’ll need. Be sure to check out the recipe card for specific amounts.

  • Granulated Sugar
  • Vegetable oil – Helps make this cake super moist and tender.
  • Melted butter – Adds flavor
  • Eggs and egg yolks – These add a perfect crumb to the cake and also give it that classic yellow color without using artificial food dyes.
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Sour Cream – Adds moisture to the cake.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Buttermilk – Adds a slight tang to the cake and contributes to the tenderness of the crumb.

Ingredient Substitutions:

Buttermilk: I personally feel that cake is way better with buttermilk as it contributes to the flavor and texture of this cake. However, if you don’t have buttermilk you can substitute it with regular milk or make homemade buttermilk.  To make homemade buttermilk use 1 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then stir. You can substitute regular milk instead of buttermilk if absolutely necessary. 

Sour cream: This is essential for keeping the cupcakes moist. If you don’t have sour cream. I recommend substituting with non-fat Greek yogurt. 

An overhead shot of a vanilla cake bake in a 9x13 inch pan

How to Make a Yellow Cake from Scratch

Making this cake only requires four steps! If you have kids who enjoy baking, this easy yellow cake recipe is a great one for them to try.

  • Prep: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Combine wet ingredients and sugar: In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, with all the dry ingredients except the buttermilk and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  • Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk: Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Add remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Use a spatula to stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  • Bake: Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely prior to frosting. 

A chocolate buttercream swirl piped onto a white counter top

What Chocolate Frosting to Use

I love this chocolate fudge frosting on yellow cake. It uses a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor. This frosting is so fudgy, a little goes a long way here. 

It’s important that you use high quality chocolate, because it will impact the taste of your frosting. This recipe calls for melted chocolate. I recommend using a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips tend to have a coating on them which, when melted, produce a more oily melted chocolate. A chocolate bar will melt more smoothly. You can use something like Ghirardelli or Lindt. I prefer dark chocolate myself, but if you prefer milk chocolate, than go for it!

Like most of my frosting recipes, this one starts with cold butter. Through the process of whipping the butter at various stages, we end up with an airy chocolate frosting that is great for spreading and piping. Be sure to finish this cake off with some sprinkles!

How to Store a Frosted Cake

Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Can I make this recipe into cupcakes?

Absolutely! This yellow cake recipe is super flexible. If you make the recipe as is, it should produce 24 cupcakes. To make 12 cupcakes, halve the ingredients. 

Can I make this recipe into a layer cake? 

Yes, this will be a 3-layer 8-inch cake, you’ll just need to make adjustments for the frosting. See recipe card notes. 

 

A gold fork sinking into a slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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A Slice of Yellow Cake on a Gold Polka Dot Plate with Frosting and Sprinkles

The Best Yellow Cake Recipe

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 slices

Description

This Yellow Cake Recipe from scratch is a better-than-cake-mix yellow cake. This recipe can be used to make a yellow cake or yellow cupcakes with a chocolate fudge frosting.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (7.5g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 1/3 cup (315ml) buttermilk or milk

For the frosting:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 3 cups (390g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy whipping cream (or milk)

Instructions

For the cake: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, butter, eggs. egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  2. In a seperate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk at a time and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Then add remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk and beat until well combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  3. Pour the batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring each time until the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely smooth. Set aside too cool.
  2. Cut the butter into pieces. Using the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Beat until butter look light in color. Next, beat the cocoa powder into the butter until well mixed.
  3. Alternate adding 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time with the liquid ingredients: vanilla extract & heavy cream. Ensure the powdered sugar is well combined, and whip for 1-2 minutes before adding more powdered sugar.
  4. Next, pour in the melted chocolate and beat on slow speed until incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2-3 minutes to whip additional air into the frosting. Spread over cooled cake. Top with sprinkles

Notes

  • Sour cream substitute: use a plain or Greek yogurt
  • Buttermilk substitute: You can use milk or make homemade buttermilk. To make homemade buttermilk, use 1 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and then stir.
  • Storage suggestions: Whenever possible, cakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you live in a hot and humid environment, you may want to store this in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
  • Make-ahead: These are best served within 2 days of preparation but will proper storage they can stay fresh for several days.
  • You can make these as yellow cupcakes  or as a yellow layer cake
Nutrition Information:
1 slice
562
49g
299mg
30g
19g
69g
2g
6g
140mg
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: birthday cake, homemade, from scratch, sheet cake

70 Responses
    1. Beyond Frosting

      Yes! Hand mixer is just fine. For the frosting, you may want to try making the frosting with slightly softened butter, because with the cold butter, you would need to beat it for a really long time to get the right consistency.

  1. Rose

    I made this cake in two nine inch pans. Next time I’ll use two eight inch pans. This cake does not rise enough to make a nine cake look high. Have not tasted it yet. Just out of the oven.

  2. Kathleen Hillman

    Thanks so much for taking time to develop this recipe! It’s delicious and just the kind of yellow cake I was looking for. 🙂

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